10 May 2011 ~ 2 Comments

Coworking: An Easy Way to Green Your Business

These days, almost everyone is looking for ways to be green, but just like Kermit said, it’s not always easy.
Whether you’re worried about the planet or not, there are significant benefits for those that live a more eco-friendly life, like saving money, wasting less, and presenting a more responsible image to earth-conscious clients.
By working for yourself, instead of a bloated company full of time and resource-wasting bureaucracy, you’re already pretty lean and mean. But coworking instead of working from home could help you reduce your impact even further. Here’s how:

Ditch The Commute (or at least reduce it)
Most coworking spaces are centrally located in downtown areas or business districts so that they’re convenient to the freelancers that live and play nearby. This means a cross-town commute in morning gridlock becomes a leisurely bike ride or walk. Most car trips occur only 2 miles from the driver’s point of origin. Unfortunately, short trips are up to three times more polluting per mile than long trips. When bicycling or walking is substituted for short auto trips, 3.6 pounds of pollutants per mile are not emitted into the atmosphere.

Consolidate Coffee Pots (and everything else)
Space owners often brag that while city governments bend over backwards to bring a single 200 person company into town, freelancers represent 200 single person companies, some of which grow up to be much bigger. The only problem is that 200 people working at home equals 200 coffee pots, lights, air conditioners, televisions, radios, and printers gobbling down costly energy all day long. When you join a coworking space, this energy consumption is drastically consolidated. Everyone shares a coffee pot, a printer, and only one room has to be heated or cooled instead of 30 entire houses. By coworking, you save money and the environment gets a little break.

Reducing, Reusing and Recycling Made Easy
If you haven’t figured it out by now, coworkers are a pretty creative bunch. Most coworking space owners don’t have lots of capital to throw around, so sustainability and conservation are built into the business plan. At Cohere, recycling is easy because there are handy bins throughout the space. We’ve even got a handy little composting bin in the kitchen ready to repurpose those coffee grounds and apple cores into garden fodder. We offer cloth napkins so you can avoid wasteful paper towels and make use of our amazing skylight to utilize passive solar lighting for 8 months out of the year.
Other coworking spaces take even more drastic steps to clean up their carbon footprint, like purchasing green energy, offering carpools or lender bikes, participating as a drop station for CSAs, and utilizing CFLs and LEDs.

In what other ways has coworking helped you save money, reduce waste or otherwise keep it green? Share your experiences in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr – Aunt Owwee

  • Sarah Cox

    I admire you providing cloth napkins – I already haul the recycling home since our complex doesn’t have it, I can’t imagine doing laundry on top of it!

  • http://twitter.com/davidhwalker David H Walker

    I really applaud your efforts for being so eco-conscious at Cohere. Really like your point about consolidation…never thought about it that way. You’re so right. I’ve thought about introducing composting at Conjunctured, but because we don’t have a garden yet (we’ve made a conscious effort to start taking care of our lawn….first step!) it’s a tough to implement but plan to do that soon.

    That being said, here’s what Conjunctured is doing to hopefully give other coworking spaces some ideas
    - all CFL’s
    - large number of members and visitors ride their bikes. The City of Austin installed free bike racks for us simply for asking. Gotta love it. I encourage other coworking space owners to ask their city too. We also are cool with members bringing their bikes inside if its late at night and they’re worried about safety. This is an important point.
    - we have a shower we encourage our members to use. this helps encourage people to bike in the early morning and in the super hot summer months.
    -  we’re close to a lot of restaurants, bars, other retail, it encourages people to walk to visit those places rather than having to drive their car.
    - have a “scratch paper” box right next to the printer. I’m always surprised how much this gets utilized.
    - city recycling program
    - junk mail recycling can next to our mail center area (so that members have an easy way to quickly recycle instead of accidentally trashing paper)
    -in an effort to save on paper towels in the bathroom we posted this nifty little sign between a paper towel rack and cloth towel rack. See attached. If you give people the option to be green, they generally will.

    Great post! I would love love love if the coworking community as a whole could lead the initiative of bringing eco-conscious processes to the office world. It seems like it would be a good fit. My ears are always perked for what others are doing. As coworking space owners we’re able to help our members get used to following eco-conscious processes and ways of being. And honestly, I feel we have a responsibility to do so.